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Royster v. Corizon

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 23, 2014

CORIZON, et al., Defendants.


A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Telly Royster, an Pennsylvania inmate formerly housed at the Camp Hill State Correctional Institution (SCI-Camp Hill), in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, [1] initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 31, 2013. (Doc. 1-1, Compl.) In sum, Mr. Royster alleges defendants repeatedly delayed dispensing his prescription migraine medication, and when he complained, they retaliated against him by re-writing the script making it more difficult for him to receive his medicine when needed. Mr. Royster also presents a state claim of medical negligence against various medical defendants for their failure to provide his medication as prescribed by his physicians, unreasonably delaying the delivery of medication which subjected him to protracted migraines without access to his pain medication. Finally, he claims that prison administrators knew of his on-going problems in accessing his migraine medication but failed to take any corrective action.

Presently before the Court are the Corizon[2] medical defendants' (Corizon, Drs. Binion and Voorstad) and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 6 and 19).[3]

For the reasons that follow, the Corizon medical defendants' and the DOC defendants' motions to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion the Court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of his or her claims. See Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain... a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. ( Id. ) "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). As such, "[t]he touchstone of the pleading standard is plausability." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012).

"The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. "A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id., at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965); see also PA Prison Soc. v. Cortes, 622 F.3d 215, 233 (3d Cir. 2010).

The inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage "is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). If a party opposing a motion to dismiss does not "nudge [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974.

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). However, under no circumstance is a court required to accept bald assertions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 215 (3d Cir. 2002); Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 n. 8 (3d Cir. 1997). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See DelRio-Mocci v. Connonlly Prop., Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 251 (3d Cir. 2012). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. Procedural History and Allegations of the Complaint

On March 31, 2013, Mr. Royster initiated this pro se civil rights action in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas. The Corizon medical defendants removed the action to this Court. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal.) On July 12, 2013, the Corizon defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 6.) When Mr. Royster failed to timely respond to the Corizon defendants' motion, the Court granted him an enlargement of time to oppose that motion and noted that the DOC defendants had been inadvertently omitted from the docket. (Doc. 16.) Consequently, the DOC defendants were directed to file a response to the Complaint. ( Id. ) On January 16, 2014, the DOC defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. 19, DOC Defs' Mot. to Dismiss.) Mr. Royster has filed opposition briefs challenging both sets of defendants' motions to dismiss. See Docs. 18 and 21. Neither the Corizon defendants, nor the DOC defendants, filed reply briefs. As such, the motions to dismiss are ripe for disposition.

Mr. Royster alleges the following in his Complaint. At some unspecified point in his incarceration, Mr. Royster was diagnosed as suffering from painful migraines. (Doc. 1-1, Compl. ¶¶ 6-7.) He experiences migraines several times a week which last anywhere from three to seventeen hours per occurrence. ( Id., ¶ 7.) In March 2011, he was prescribed Fioricet as needed, or pro re nata (PRN). ( Id., ¶ 8.) When he experienced a migraine and needed his medication, Mr. Royster would notify security staff, who in turn, notified the medical staff of his request. ( Id., ¶¶ 9-10.) The medical staff was responsible for delivering the medication to his housing unit in a timely manner, "anywhere from ten minutes to one hour at most." ( Id., ¶ 11.)

Between March 2011 and April 2012, on approximately 45 occasions, Mr. Royster waited more than 6 hours in excruciating pain before receiving his migraine medication, if he received it at all. ( Id., ¶ 12). He avers the delays were either due to security staff failing to timely notify the medical department of his need for the medication, or because once notified, the medical department failed to promptly deliver his medication. ( Id., ¶¶ 12-14.) Mr. Royster names the following security staff members as failing to timely relay his request for pain medication to the medical staff: Chambers; Gardner; Kuzar; Cook; Ayres; Flinn; Santucci; Evans; Stum; Britton and Brosius. ( Id., ¶ 13.) He claims the following prison medical staff were responsible for the delayed delivery of his medication: Nurse ...

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